Monday, November 3, 2014

Best Practices

{Not an Ebola post, and nothing many of you don't already know. If that applies, take the opportunity to make the current crisis a teachable moment. And give the new kids a chance to catch up. Or, skip this one.}

From Comments:
I guess I have to add to that the fact that no one has any idea what they should or can do when a local case or two show up. Dallas, you'll notice, is still there with people in it. What were they supposed to do as a practical matter? What is anyone to do who doesn't have a remote farm, a big bank account, and a place to put all the needed stuff (much less the right weapon and ammo to defend things and people should it come to that)?

Glad you're putting it out there for those who missed it first time around. But some practical best practices guide for normal people along in here would be useful.
I note for the record I have no remote farm (yet), nor a big bank account. I do have the place for the stuff here, and the means to keep it in my possession.

Now about the details...

I can't tell anyone else when they should decide the time has come to drop out, and either load the car and go, or drop the drawbar across the front door. There are way too many variables (job, family, dependents, location, size of the outbreak, your own resources, etc.) for me to offer anything concrete in a one-size-fits-all manner.

What I can say is that each person should look long and hard at their life, and decide on a threshold for how close you're willing to let it get before you'd act. Realize that your friends and neighbors will do that too, even if it's ad hoc/on the fly, so factor that in as well. Don't be the last one standing when the music stops.

Whatever event or circumstances is your bubble, it has to be enough that you shouldn't and won't rationalize it away when it happens. Every year they find the bones of pilots who skipped a step, or had get-thereitis, and drivers and backpackers who kept going long past the point where they should have said "I'm lost" and stopped, or turned around, but instead kept going thinking things would sort themselves out. They generally find what's left of them the next spring (or five) later, much the worse for wear.

Don't be that guy.

If you're not going to take drastic action until your neighbor gets Ebola, or until people are dropping in the halls at work, because you're out of vacation and sick days, that's fine, it's a free country, but it's your hide. At that point, your bosses' prudence may be the deciding factor, because if they close up the shop, you're done either way.

But if they're idiots, you'll die in obedience to their lack of common sense. Choose wisely.

As far as other best practices, it's much easier.


You need water pretty much daily. One day without it will make you very thirsty. Two days will make you thirsty and debilitated. Three days without it will probably kill you. This all shortens in hot environments, or when doing a lot of heavy work, coupled with high stress (which makes your heart beat faster and increases respiration) - like say the stress of a deadly virus running rampant.

If you have a well, and a bombproof back-up power supply (or three) to run the pump, nifty; you're golden.
Most of us don't.
Blue barrels work great. A trash dolly to move them, a place to store them, and a means to get the water out (which could be as simple as 6' of plastic food-grade tubing for a simple siphon) and you're looking good.
Figure a minimum need of 1 gal/person/day for cooking and drinking.
Better than blue barrels is a cistern - an underground or above-ground storage tank. Big, and buried below the frost line is ideal. For someone in a condo, not so much.
Got garage? If you can put the car somewhere else, you can get an above ground pool that would hold enough water for a family for quite a while. Fill it, tarp it, and purify what you take from it, but for lots of quick storage, it's better than wishing.
If you have a second bathroom, treat it as the luxury it is (tough though that may be in a house with teenagers, but still, tough it out), and get a Water-bob for 60-100 gallons of drinking water stored in the tub.
Catching and purifying rainfall or snowmelt may also be a regional possibility.

Whatever you elect to do, without water, you're not going to make it.


As I've said several times, canned, canned, canned.
Greatest variety, 2+ year shelf life on avg. (ignore "Best by" freshness dates per se, we're worried about only two things - is it safe, and is it nutritious), and best cost to quantity value.
Downsides are bulk/weight. There are whole books on storing food. Get one, and bone up.
Personal advice, figure out, for whatever family-unit you're contemplating, a menu for one week's meals. If necessary, start with one day's meals.
For instance:
Breakfast -
raisins/applesauce/brown sugar (to put IN the oatmeal)
coffee/sugar/creamer if you've got the habit
dried fruit
non-fat powdered milk

PB and J
raisins, banana chips, dried apples, etc.
canned tuna
mayo and mustard (packets)
dried croutons, olives, etc.
drink mixes (Koolaid, Gatorade, lemonade, etc. make water all the time one helluva lot more palatable)

canned meat (beef, chicken, ham, salmon, etc.)
canned or dried fruit
condiments, spices, etc.

Those are just a couple of examples. Whatever personal menu you work out, try to get cans where you'll use the entire can at one meal. Then nothing gets spoiled, and you don't need to store leftovers.

Don't forget a can opener or three. Not everything has an easy-open top.
Once you've planned a week's meals, buy them. Then try them out for a week, no cheating, and field test your menu. Tweak it as necessary.
Then go buy another week's worth of the improved menu.
Do that every other week in a year's shopping, and you've got a 6-month food cushion for a pandemic, or any other disaster, including illness for a parent, or loss of a job. Not all disasters affect the whole community.

Once you've got 6 month's food, one week out of every month, eat 1 weeks' supplies, starting with the oldest stuff. (Write dates on the can lids with a Sharpie/Magic Marker). Replace what you eat, and always eat the oldest, and over two years, you'll be using your food without losing any of it to time and spoilage, getting the family used to the fare, and dining one week per month at prices from two years ago.

MREs are a heat and shelf-life limited, expensive, and generally nasty alternative, but they'll do in a pinch for the short term.
Dehydrated packed canned foods last longer, but cost a lot, and have less variety.
Do anything you like, just understand the pros and cons.
But do something.

Other things

Winter is cold, summer is hot, and you need to be able to cook that food, maybe boil the water, and keep the place hot/cool.
So energy/power generation are a good idea. In severe winters, lifesaving.
That can be solar panels and battery storage.
It can be a big propane tank.
It can be a few cords of firewood.
Or a generator and stored fuel.
Ideally, many or all of the above. If you have only one way of doing anything, that's your failure point.
So have two, or five.

Most of the year in most of the country, you could cook dinner every day with nothing more complicated that a solar oven. You can buy one or make it, and most of what you need is sheet metal, black high-temperature BBQ/stove/engine paint, a big glass cover, and a dark cook pot, all pointed at the sun for a couple-three hours.

I've seen Gilligan's Island-style indoor fans rigged out of a bicycle wheel windmill wheel, thirty feet of bicycle chain, and an axle to an indoor fan blade. Thirty MPH desert winds outside, through the magic of Schwinn and Shimano, turned into an indoor variable-speed fan that also pulled out the hot attic air. A little grease and 3-in-1 was the annual maintenance.

One patio balcony solar panel, a deep cycle battery, and an inverter will charge laptops and cell phones indefinitely. And run a microwave long enough to nuke a bowl or cup of something. A bigger set up gets you LED lighting everywhere.

I've done laundry with a five gallon bucket, a GammaSeal lid, some soap, and some vigorous shaking. It works. So do clothes lines in the sun or over a heat source. Welcome to the 19th century.

You should have basic first aid supplies.
Not Ebola supplies - unless you have a death wish - but at bare minimum the basic everyday stuff to take care of small emergencies. A box of bandaids isn't enough.
Don't forget dental emergencies.
Right now, you should be able to handle minor burns, cuts and wounds, sprains, strains, etc.
If you're serious about things, some facility with other problems, when 911 and the ER aren't 10 minutes away, would be prudent as well.

Cash, not just plastic; junk silver when you can get some too.
If you haven't built up a minimum six month's cash financial cushion, readily accessible, even if you have to do it with a mayonnaise jar and your daily spare pocket change, you're not doing it right.

The ability to put out a small house fire, and perhaps even a larger one.

And the ability to take care of localized income redistribution specialists (thieves, robbers, burglars) et al. Whether that's something from the local dog pound, or from Colt or Glock, or both: your call.

At that point, you've now taken responsibility for replacing the water utility, the supermarket, the power company, the ER, the bank, the fire department, and the police.

There are entire bookshelves of books on each and all of these topics. I know, because I have most of them, including all of the good ones. Add those, along with some good reading books*, a few games, and some DVDs, and you've also replaced the library, television stations, and the movie theatre.

Add some local and SW radio receiving abilities (sending would be good too at some point), plus the internet while it lasts, and you've got the same news abilities of the major networks.

Look that over. They're listed from most important to least important, generally.
Correct your deficiencies. And don't get one perfect, and neglect the others. A million gallon cistern won't feed you, and a full pantry won't heal an infected cut, or stave off an armed robber. Get a basic level of capability in each area, then flesh it out, make it deeper and more resilient, and add redundancies, because things wear out, break, get lost or just walk away, or they go to the Island Of Missing Socks.

And remember: having only 72 hours of emergency supplies guarantees that you'll be in a FEMA refugee camp on Day Four. Go deep.

That's best practices, until you can put all of that together on a remote farm, and amass a big bank account.

Having those basics now improves your chances of getting there eventually.
Failing to do so puts you at the mercy of other people, and your best interests are seldom in theirs.

*(A favorite thought-game: At the end of The Time Machine, the out-of-time protagonist grabs three books to take back and help the Eloi rebuild society. Think about which three books you'd take.)


Anonymous said...

Extremely well written and shared!

Meanwhile, I can't think of three books. I'd WANT to bring back the entire latest print editions they ever did of the Encyclopedia Britannica, but hernias would be involved. Is a wheelbarrow allowed? Or just three books? Too much information loss! Big quandary.

Anonymous said...

To rebuild society? (at least the tech part)

Machinery's Handbook, mid-1950s edition

Boy Scouts of America Fieldbook, mid-1960s edition

Swezey's "Formulas Methods, tips and data for home and workshop"

Just 3, and fairly compact, sitting on my shelf at the moment.

Bonus books:

Where there is no Doctor

Where there is no Dentist

Pediatric First Aid for Caregivers and Teachers

Merck diagnostic manual (disease)

Physicians Desk Reference (drugs)

Any of the AUDEL'S construction manuals (multi-volume)

any 1950-60s textbooks on geometry, math, engineering, etc at the high school level

Mathematical Tables and Formulas

Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science)Robert Bruce Thompson

For culture:

Complete works of Mark Twain,

'''''''''''''''of the Brothers Grimm

'''''''''''''''William Shakespeare

'''''''''''''''Hans Christian Andersen

Federalist Papers

Holy Bible

There are lots more and good ones, but those are the titles I can see on the shelf behind me.


Rob Crawford said...

I have a 60s era Encyclopedia Britannica -- too much later and I suspect the politics would have gone sour. ISTR there was a list of books to rebuild society in "Lucifer's Hammer", but that was put together in the 70s -- 50/50 whether that's good or not.

I missed an opportunity on a perfect farm this summer -- and, man, am I hating myself for that now.

A Texan said...


LH was published in 1977. The single book listed in Wikipedia as having been preserved (in layers of plastic in a septic tank) is "The Way Things Work"

Note that there is a newer version available.

Ex-Dissident said...

I must admit that I haven't given this as much thought as I should, but I always figured that boiling water would solve the problem of providing drinking and brushing water. After reading your post, I wonder if I will have enough energy to boil an adequate amount of water if I have to sit tight for several months. I can find wood for burning easily enough, but I wonder if daily fires will make me too much of a target in such an environment. The fireplace is mostly ornamental but it should hold a gallon bucket and I can probably rig a contraption to make make removing the pot easier; I recall seeing an early colonial fireplace with just such a contraption in a museum. Any thoughts, Aesop?

Ex-Dissident said...

To Anonymous of the second comment,

Music is a pleasure worth having in life. I think that a good musical selection should be added to any collection if you plan to rebuild. Similarly, there are movies worth saving too. As far as practical literature for the kiddies, you cannot go wrong with Aesop's tales.

Anonymous said...

@ ex-d

you may not be able to find trees to burn. Read some of the stuff on by Selco. All the trees were gone pretty quickly. His site is the first place I read about eating grass soup, but not the last. If you have to go out, you will expose yourself to contamination and ambush.

Boiling won't remove toxins or chemical contamination. Surface water, and even swimming pools may not be useable. I just got a mid-size kiddie pool and will fill it when the time comes. It will be covered. That is in addition to the 90 gallons in stainless barrels, and 125 in plastic. I've got some in smaller 7gal containers too. And some in 2 liter bottles. Hard to bug out with a 55gal drum....

Conserving fuel is one of the reasons I have instant rice in my stores. Boiling for 30 minutes uses a lot of gas.

I'm not sure you'll have to worry about the smell of your fire. Every urban disaster I've been in (and it is unfortunately a few) has had lots of random burning. The smell of a campfire is a LOT different from the smell of a structure fire, or a trash fire, but at least for a while, there will be LOTS of fires. Look up "rocket stove" for a design that gets the most from your available fuel.


Anonymous said...

I would like to add some storage considerations for those in earthquake country (West Coast and New Madrid area). Store your breakables low and on shelves that have a front ridge or doors to keep them from going to the floor. Lehmans makes some great storage containers for homemade canning jars. This is another layer of protection within the cabinet or on the shelf. If a quake hits and your glass items hit the floor your food stash is gone instantly.


GamegetterII said...

I would add rice to the canned goods for those of us who are short on $$$.
Get some food-grade 5 gallon buckets w lids,buy 10# bags of rice-or get 25# bags if available.
Put the rice in your freezer for 3 days-that kills the eggs/larvae of all the critters that tend to grown in any grains stored for any length of time.Allow it to come back to room temp before storing in buckets.
I can fit 31-33# of rice per bucket.
Toss a couple or three of the Hot hands handwarmer packets in with the rice just prior to putting the lid on the bucket-they produce heat by using up oxygen-no oxygen = no spoilage.

Also several jars of beef and chicken base,not the cheap stuff-you can tell by ingredients-do not buy the stuff that lists salt as the first ingredient,look for a better brand.
Besides making soup stocks/soups,it can be used to make individual cups of bouillon,and to add flavor to the rice during the times you have no veggies to add to it for flavor.

I'm going to keep thinking about the 3 books thing-that's a whole lot that needs covered in just 3 books.

Anonymous said...

Great effort Aesop. It warms my heart to see such good work get exposure. God bless!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great article, Aesop. I only started drafting my prepper shopping list last nite, and this article highlighted the need for quite a few more things. Especially loved the tip on the WaterBob. Never even knew such a thing existed. FYI, it is cheaper to order direct on their web site ( than it is on Amazon.

Fired off a bunch of other orders on Amazon as well. Let's hope it all gets here before the SHTF.

Virginian said...

Thank you so much, Aesop! I took a map and roughed out an 80-mile radius from the place where we live. Put a smsll plate on the map to fit the marks I made of the radius. Took a pencil and drew the circle. That's the "Cordon Sanitaire". Anything like an Ebola outbreak, civil unrest, etc., that happens within the radius, and it's everybody in, door shut and locked, and stays that way until the danger is past. This, of course, assumes that all the other preparations are complete for in-home "vacation" for the duration. Showed the map to the family. The decision, if it comes, to shut and lock the door, will be on my call. No "back-chat". (You are correct, we cannot "bug-out"--have to deal with things here).

FrozenPatriot said...

Thanks for another great primer to pass along to friends recently awaken. If you're willing and able to make the trek to the edge of the tundra, you're always welcome here. We have 5 acres with thousands more surrounding and uninhabited, a well with a hand pump, wood heat, sufficient propane for cooking, and most importantly, good and Godly people in abundance. There still exist "wealth redistribution specialists" (those who vote for a living rather than work for a living) but the -40°F nights coming in the months ahead will introduce many of them to their maker before we cross paths.

Next up: grow both the firewood inventory and the list of like-minded folks, either through conversion or recruitment.

Jennifer said...

Ditto, great work Aesop! Thank you for sharing and providing inspiration. Query: what water filters do you recommend? Haven't used one since backpacking years and years ago BC. (before children)

Anonymous said...

here is a link to a site with friendly people and a high signal to noise ratio (for things like gardening, raising chickens, and hands on preps. there is also a lot of herbalism and some alt medicine.)

Ten things to do RIGHT NOW:

That and the 10 MORE things to do (at the linked article) will get you off to a good start.


Time is short, so what preppers sometimes sneeringly refer to as "panic buying" is appropriate in my opinion.


FrozenPatriot said...

Hillbillygirl, I have a couple Sawyer PointONE (0.1 micron) filters and love them. I have the bucket kit which allows 5 gallons to be gravity filtered in around 15 minutes. They're rinseable and are claimed to filter a million gallons. They're also small enough to take backpacking or hiking, and can be used inline with hydration backpacks.

tweell said...

For inexpensive chemical water treatment, get cheap pool shock with the sole active ingredient of calcium hypochlorite (HTH is one of the brand names I see a lot of). That is basically bleach in solid form. A pound will treat thousands of gallons.

Tucanae Services said...

Two prong approach for us. We have our local stores -- Canned and frozen, water, etc. We also have remote stores in a storage facility 60mi away. Water barrels, clothes, food, ammo, essentially a replacement strategy if home burnt to the ground. The rent is cheap which solves the idea of buying the ranch.

Something to consider. Preparedness back in the day in florida was the routine of cleaning/scrubbing/bleaching the bathtubs. Then fill them with water. It was expected that even if our home did not have a direct hit, the utilities might. At about 60-80gal per tub it was a no cost way of extending potable water in an emergency.

Aesop said...

@Hillbilly Girl G,
My personal preference is the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter.
They're spendy at $300 or so, but the lifespan and durability is huge. Buy once, cry once.

(For anyone in coastal lands, they also make hand-powered desalinators that will turn sea water to drinking water. How good are they? They're what the Navy/USAF/USCG puts in liferaft survival kits.)

For longer term stationary use, the Big Berkeys (the stainless ones) are the way to go.
And spare filter elements for each.

But remember, you still have to have a source to purify.

Aesop said...

You're talking about a fireplace crane:

Bear in mind that open flames require cast iron pots. Putting Revereware and such into open fires will get rid of it pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

In other news, our government is busy protecting us from ourselves again:

"The Associated Press and other press outlets have agreed not to report on suspected cases of Ebola in the United States until a positive viral RNA test is completed."

So there is another Amendment on the ebola pyre.


Rob Crawford said...

The book discussion, and some errands, distracted me from something I wanted to say:

Instead of the freeze-dried entrees (which, IMHO, are salt-heavy and low on taste), look for freeze-dried and long-term-storage ingredients. With a little more work, you can vary the recipes up. Don't forget things for flavor, whatever path you take -- salt, pepper, hot sauce, Worcester sauce, herbs (and you can find them freeze-dried, as well).

A Texan -- the Wikipedia article on LH only lists one book in the stash? ISTR there were were dozens; the character who made the stash spent an entire night packing the books, and took a few wheel barrows full to his septic tank. The only one he took with him (again, from memory) was the one with instructions on preparing insulin in primitive conditions.

A Texan said...

For a cooking stove there's nothing better, IMHO, than the Biolite campstove. It is essentially a rocket stove with a thermoelectric generator attached. You put in sticks or small pieces of wood and light it up. At first the heat charges a battery that then starts a fan. The fan swirls the air in the chamber, making the burn far more efficient (less smoke, hotter). Then the battery continues to charge and allows you to recharge any USB device. Of course, you can also cook or boil water on top. They have various attachments, including one to make cooking for 6 or 8 people easy.

Regardless of your source of fire, I would advise accumulating wood now. You can get wood scrap at Home Despot or Lowes, but don't get particle board because of the glue...get actual wood. Save popsicle sticks, get scrap from family and friends, etc. Get wood in the sizes you need, or make it so with an ax or saw.

Anonymous said...

1) rice and other dry goods?? Diatomaceous Earth for insects
2) google earth for all lakes and ponds near--I'm rural and have many
3) IMORTANT: Aladdin/Stanley thermos; preserves hot food--keeps water boiling hot, can cook things like rice in 30 minutes


Anonymous said...

We on the tropical island have a little different menu plan.

Rice 25kilos per month family of 4
4 liters oil per month coconut is locally cheap. $2.50 liter
Dried fish. $1.50 per kilo
Dried taro leaves $8 per kilo
Cassava flour .75 per kilo
Soy sauce
Salt .25 per kilo
Flour .30 per kilo. And we bake pilot bread
Baking powder
Baking soda
Whole corn
Powdered garlic
Mung beans .50 per kilo
Green unroasted peanuts $20 for a 25kilo sack
Tang instant .20 per pack

365 day growing season
Fresh water spring tested with water pressure to house
3 burner wood cooking stove
Solar lights
Chicken flock
Banana trees everywhere
Sweet potatoe everywhere
Coffee trees
Cocoa trees
Fig trees
Orange trees
Lime trees

Seeds and tools to expand garden when time arrives. Food storage only to supplement garden

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @2:53...

Well that's just great. This way we can be blindsided by the next cases that pop up. That won't lead to panic whatsoever, nope.

While there's a lot of truth in being a boiled frog, at least if you're a smart frog you can see it coming and hop out of the pot in time (after your hot tub relaxation). So though the inundation of suspected cases made people less alert in a way, now they're just going to be clobbered by a truck (or boiled, I'm mixing metaphors here) when a case turns out positive. That's going to go super well. Yes indeedy...

Who is NOT thinking in D.C. and the press corps? Or a better question, who's THINKING anymore?

Anonymous said...

Rob, just finished LH again... the book on making insulin was in the septic tank... Dan Forrester (the character) as a diabetic - had the insulin instructions in his head but didn't use them... sacrificially focused on others... the book he had with him was "How Things Work, Vol.1". Volume 2 was in the septic tank...
And if anyone hasn't read it, now would be a great time...

Jennifer said...

Thank you to everyone for water purifier recommendations! I used to always keep a year's worth of food in the basement; time to get back on that. Also, LH was a favorite book of mine as a teenager. Never woulda thought it would be popular with others a couple decades on.

Anonymous said...

Hey Aesop,

How about this one:

"The Associated Press and other press outlets have agreed not to report on suspected cases of Ebola in the United States until a positive viral RNA test is completed."

This is such complete bullshit, I can no longer believe we are living in America.

h/t to 6:53PM for a fine catch.

Anonymous said...

The Complete Walking Dead Collector's Box of DVDs...

Anonymous said...

Here's a best practice that it seems large portions of the world CAN'T recognize:

In the middle of an ebola epidemic STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE'S BODILY FLUIDS.

[graphic pictures of bleeding kids]

"This Shi'ite Muslim child had his head gashed [on purpose] during a procession ahead of Ashura in Mumbai, India.

Other Shi'ites were seen drenched in blood during the processions in India, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan."

Wow, that's all I can say. Wow.


Anonymous said...


Living near the Gulf, where we have a limitless supply of water to go fetch with a bucket if necessary, I am interested in an affordable desalinator. But I looked up the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter on Amazon, and in the Q&A's they state that it can't be used for seawater. Are they wrong?

tweell said...

There's a Katadyn liferaft RO filter system for getting drinking water from seawater.
It's expensive and needs regular maintenance if used.

You can also buy or make a solar still. Those usually don't produce much water, so expect to need a few of them. These also require regular cleaning. Never let your solar still run dry - brine is much easier to deal with than scale.

Getting drinking water from seawater is difficult, so is usually a last resort. We prefer to have nature distill it for us!

Anonymous said...

If you or someone you love is on a prescription med, get extra. Better yet, if it is possible, work to get off the med. Have at least 1 extra pair of glasses. If you have been putting off dental work, get it done now. If you are on a special diet, do your own canning to avoid ingredients that could make you ill during an already stressful event. Home canning is easy and quite safe if instructions are followed.

Percy said...

A sunnier, long, perhaps naïve outlook:

The thesis underlying your excellent best practices recommendations seems to be that, with the anticipated growth of Ebola cases here, all of our basic social infrastructure elements will fail. By this I mean that food and energy supplies and availability to households, law and order (police), the mails, communications systems (phone and TV), and normal commerce (ability to buy goods) would no longer function. Why not?

Even in a very severe case, involving a substantial minority of our people (like, say, 3, 4 or even 5 out of every 10 Americans), it’s hard to see why, as a result, everything around us would just stop. This is not the same, after all, as preparing for a nuclear attack on one’s local city. (In the case of Ebola, even if everyone in, say, New York City were to die of it, it would be safe shortly after the last to fall to go back in there. Messy until completion of the cleanup, but safe.)

Access to and use of hospitals, doctors, and most healthcare providers, of course, would become scarce or non-existent. Those who provide these services are at the spear tip of any spreading disease scenario, and would be unable to defend themselves adequately against this one. So those who provide and consume these services would figure out quickly how to stay home rather than go to work or to get treated. Mass transit probably would suffer a similar fate, and restaurants and fast food places might not be far behind. Workers would have trouble getting to work absent mass transit, so the products and services provided by their workplaces would degrade, but not enough to stop them altogether. Loss of mass transit need not stop or even severely disrupt coal, oil, energy, communications, and food deliveries or police work.

Could there be severe local disruptions? Sure, but for how long? And how many localities would be affected? The businesses and local governments that supply us and bill and collect from us for their services now are not just going to cease operations everywhere. Workers are not going to stop working, except where they can’t get there and in high-risk jobs (could include all repetitive person-to-person physical interaction jobs). Will people stop using elevators? Not if one is gloved and no one else is in the thing.

Best practices still would seem to require means of isolating, feeding, and otherwise talking care of one’s self and one’s family, along the lines you’ve suggested. But probably but not for very long. Just for as long as it takes to sort the living from the dying and the dead (among whom the stupid, the too brave and kind, and the unlucky will be numbered). A few weeks, say, as means of picking up and getting rid of bodies and marking places (whole buildings) as unsafe to approach for X weeks after a date are devised and implemented.

Does one have to hit the road? Depends on how many bodies are piling up. One here or there on the street is probably not (just stay the hell away from them and from anyone who’s not smart enough to do the same). Lots of bodies, different answer. If sheltering in place, start using lots of bleach on things and wearing protective gloves when you go out. Do not go to hospitals or get on a plane, bus or train. And good luck!

tweell said...

My three books:

The Bible
The Foxfire Book
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch

Anonymous said...

Hi Percy,

You are wrong about most things continuing, and possibly about most people going to work.

Most stores, gas stations, and other providers have 1-3 days stock on hand. The rest is delivered "just in time." This means that ANY surge in buying will quickly empty the shelves. The regional distribution centers only have a few days supply on hand themselves. The rest is still at the factories, or in transit. Any surge in demand will take days to weeks to recover from. ANY disruption in transit will break that system. Quarantines, vehicle inspections, closed ports, movement restrictions, or truckers simply refusing to drive will mean in 3 days people start to go hungry.

Here in hurricane country we see this every couple of years. We only recover because of a massive staging area and effort outside the disaster zone. There won't be any "outside" area if things get bad.

Also, any disruption in electrical or internet infrastructure will cause problems. Gas pumps won't run, cash registers don't work, EBT cards are just pieces of plastic, freezers thaw, etc.

Fires in substations, opportunistic attacks or simple vandalism, worker shortage, all could cause disruptions.

For some official numbers and scenarios about people going to work, read thru the CDC stuff on pandemic flu. They expect about 40% absenteeism if I recall correctly.

During civil unrest, the cops will NOT be coming to your aid.

During widespread panic, fire and EMS will NOT be responding.

I have first hand experience with those during riot, hurricane, earthquake, and terror attack. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, for at least 72 hours in a NORMAL disaster, where aid will be mobilized and be coming in from outside. Ebola outbreak is not a normal disaster as there is very little area guaranteed to be 'outside' the affected area. Particularly when it is widespread. And aid workers can not bring 'hurricane' back with them to their home area, so that possibility will complicate recovery efforts.

Our just in time, lean, interconnected world is a complex web of interdependent things, any one of which can monkey wrench the whole works. Just look in your fridge. The food came by truck and boat from mexico and chile, vietnam and china. The packaging was printed in china and shipped to the processor. The farmer shipped his food to the processor. The processor shipped to distributors, who in turn shipped to stores. At every step, there are transportation services that need fuel and people, and especially communications and IT services. Every step assumes there are banking systems, credit letters, customs clearing officers,propane and spare forklift parts, and a myriad of other stuff all working together.

It really doesn't take much to cause ripple effects and cascade failures in systems like that. In all previous cases we had folks standing by, outside the problem, to help. There may not be an "outside" this time.

Start prepping while there is still time, while you don't have to wonder if UPS will deliver.


Andrew said...

Sucks to be me. I've only got so much Synthroid and I kind of need it to live. Been saving up an emergency stash, but none of my Thyroid Cancer doctors gave me more than a blank stare when I asked "what if I run out". The answer was, "well, why would you run out?"

Off topic, I know. Answer I got when I put it to a "Lost" tv show type scenario was, maybe a year, but maybe not.

Aesop said...

For those who keep pointing out that "AP agrees not to cover suspected Ebola cases...etc.,
that may be, or it may not be.

It wouldn't particularly surprise me either way.

But at this point, the only source for that tidbit is the one lone citation by one Forbes writer, and people repeating it.

It is therefore nothing but unsubstantiated rumor until proven otherwise.
And AP isn't the only news source on the internet.

Aesop said...

@Anonymous 8:47,
As tweel noted with that link, the Katadyn Desalinator (for seawater/brackish coastal water) is not the same thing as their Pocket Microfilter (for fresh but contaminated water).
They are separate products, for separate purposes, and not interchangeable.

And yes, solar distillation is the best way to go, IF you have a place you can build one, and maintain it.

Also, thanks to the Anonymous islander @2:16 for the tropical menu. But not storing food is a great way to starve when a typhoon/hurricane wipes out your crops, as pretty much every dead civilization would attest.
That's a harsh penalty lesson for grasshoppers since my namesake's time.

Anonymous said...

Farm, and then have some sort of food dehydrator and know how to can goods as well. Maybe even a root cellar. That way on bad crop years you're not going to starve, but you're not reliant only upon canned goods long term. If a total societal collapse were to happen, you'd be best off knowing agriculture and how to preserve foods. You know, like they knew how to do until 100 years ago.

Rocket stoves can be built with four concrete cylinder blocks in a pinch.

I do like the BioLite stoves though.

If you have a well, have a manual pump put in. Have your septic checked out now, but in the future if you still want to be civilized there's nothing wrong with a composting toilet - just don't use THAT compost on your food. It's also a way to save fresh water supplies - otherwise, use your shower water and a bucket to flush. Passive hot water solar heaters are a good way to keep up some semblance of civilization also, at least for a long while.

There's so much out there to learn and know, but with enough time everyone can sort this stuff out. :)

Anonymous said...

Does the WHO update numbers on a regular schedule, or just whenever?

Aesop said...

Every 2-5 days in this outbreak.
So yeah, pretty much "whenever."

Added to which all three countries operate on the equatorial African version of "island time": "we'll get you that report when you get it."
And then factor in literacy/numeracy rates that make Appalachia look like Oxford and Harvard, if not MIT and Caltech.

That's why the numbers blow: everyone knows they're crapola, but they also know they're the only numbers we've got, or will get.

tweell said...

Andrew - have you tried an on-line pharmacy? Results are iffy, but if you can use Armour thyroid (extract from pigs) they can usually deliver.

Anonymous said...

Water question.
If you buy bottled water, how long does it last? Does it matter if it is "purified" or the various stuff that is claimed on bottled water?


Denise - new to prepping, all help appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Hi Denise, bottled water has an expiration date on it, but like most dates, it is a guideline.

Some bottled water will change taste after a while, and some bottles will degrade. The 'milky' plastic ones seem to degrade the fastest. Some will allow contaminates in as they are not really sealed well.

Bottled is great for convenience, but not for long term prepping. It is hard to store enough in small sizes for cooking, hygiene, etc. You do a lot more with water than drink it :-)

After a hurricane left us without city water for 3 days, I re-thought my storage needs. I had filled the bathtub for flushing water (your toilet will flush if you add water to the bowl) and had water in 7 gal. jugs. I had enough to drink and cook, but got real nervous and started bringing 5 gal. buckets from across town where the water was still working. Now I have 90gal of drinking in stainless barrels, and an additional 125 gal that would need treatment in a rainwater system.

There are specialized large tanks that are designed for prepping, there are 40 and 55 gal drums that make good storage too. Look at aquatainer and waterbrick for small size (3.5-7 gal) solutions. A google of stackable water storage will get you a wide range of options. If you are DIY, old water heaters work, as do rainbarrels, and kiddie pools.

Good luck on your journey. Get the panic out of the way, and then build on that base. It is a fantastic feeling to know that you have resources if you need them, and great peace of mind to have them even if you don't.


Aesop said...

Bottled water will always contain : bottled water.
It never "goes bad".

What does happen, is that chemicals and other things can soak in through the plastic over time. E.g. if you stored your bottled water next to a bin full of onions, you'd have onion-scented water given enough time. Also, nasty chemicals can get into it, so you shouldn't store drinking water near petrochemicals like gasoline, cleaning compounds, or anything else like that.

It will also go "flat" as dissolved oxygen percolates out of the water. The solution for that is, when you're about to actually drink it, pour it back and forth between a couple of containers, and/or leave half in the bottle, and shake it vigorously with the cap on, which will restore some of the oxygen to the water, and make it taste more normal.
Or, you can just use it up after a year or less, and replace it with new stock.

It's also best to store it in the dark, as light, esp. sunlight, can cause algae and other critters not completely killed off to flourish in stored water. The UV will also degrade the plastic bottles over time.

As far as water being "purified", sometimes that simply amounts to having been chlorinated to kill germs, then having the chlorine filtered out, so all you're getting is bottled tap water.

If it's drinkable, that's really all that matters, so I wouldn't spend a lot of time or money getting shishi fancy water, unless there's a brand that tastes better to you than the others.

Once again, against the day when H2O is the main menu beverage, I advise also storing flavored drink additives for taste and variety, to break the monotony.

Welcome to the getting ready just in case club.

Anonymous said...

IBC totes are awesome, look them up Craigslist and make sure they were used for food grade items first.

This video shows how one guy set up a massive (1000 gallon) rainwater collection system using them:

Anonymous said...

Here we went redundancy plus. We have the well with a manual pump. On top of that we have the IBC tote system in place for 2200 gallons for watering the garden in summer. We also have a very large cistern. If all of that were somehow to fail, we're about 1/2 a mile from a year round creek and know how to purify water either through distillation or with chlorine. It's kind of about how far you're willing to go, but I'd say if you're in the suburbs a rainwater barrel or IBC tote would be a good longer term idea.

(On first coffee, typing stinks, sorry Aesop).

Percy said...

Anonymous Nick: I wholly agree with your point about the complex interconnectedness of things that support us. And I am quite aware of the butterfly effect aspect of all this. Still, I do not see why a material increase in Ebola cases here would mean that all or essential parts of our support mechanisms should be expected to break down everywhere and at the same time. That is, I can’t see the hurricane, riot, earthquake, or terrorist attack situations as analogous. Any of your situations — though earthquake and hurricane are quite different from riot and terrorist attack — if severe enough can cut off area X, making entry into or out of X and supply of people within X with anything, except what can be delivered by air, impossible for a while. Not so for Ebola cases.

There’s no obvious reason to think that Ebola cases and fear will stop electricity, gas, and water supply, for instance, the way any of your examples might well do (and have in the past done, sometimes for long periods — too long if one is not prepared for such an eventuality, which is why the “best practices” advice Aesop has provided is so valuable). Because I think things generally will limp through depletion of employee resources, fright, and even temporarily poisoned buildings, it is not plain to me why it will prove impossible to supply and take care of non-sick people sheltering in place, as it were. That does not mean medical care or mass transit for the public (as opposed to freight) will be available — I do not think either would be— and maybe I’ve missed other important things, too. Have I?

A few temporarily dead cities and towns, if overwhelmed by Ebola cases, could result , imaginably, but we have an awful lot of those. So, it still seems to me that, and so I hope, very few would have to hit the road, get out of town, go somewhere else, and start relying on all the elaborate, self-sufficient, long-term elements suggested by the “best practices.” But many of those “best practices” make sense for any family facing even a temporary cut-off from of essentials like food, water, and power.

Anonymous said...

Maryinmt to Percy,

One thing that could happen is that hospitals taking care of ebola patients aren't going to be available for people with the flu. That could lead to a massive outbreak with thousands of people not showing up to keep all of our just in time systems going. Or any other disease that comes around in flu season.

Anonymous said...

Hi Percy, thanks for your response. I don't think that " all or essential parts of our support mechanisms should be expected to break down everywhere and at the same time" due to ebola outbreaks necessarily, but I think a few breakdowns at nearly the same time WOULD cripple us dramatically. As Aesop and others have pointed out, ANY case of ebola takes a significant amount of resources OUT of the local communities. Currently at Duke U, a whole wing is devoted to their patient. How many ambulances and EMTs does your local community have? How many can you do without? Any outbreak of 5 or more is going to terrify most people. And people are going to stay home. Whether to watch their kids, or to avoid their co-workers, that will have a MASSIVE effect on the local economies, and cascading effects on the national economy.

After a couple of days, those people are going to be out of food, beer, cigarettes and will find the stores empty. There will be demands that someone DO SOMETHING. But what to do?

You said that you don't see why people confined to their homes couldn't be supplied. BY who? With what? There aren't huge piles of food sitting around (see JIT delivery.) There aren't large organized groups just waiting to deliver the food. (as an exercise, think of this as the reverse of garbage collection, and the amount of time, effort and resources that costs. Add in that no one would barricade the garbage trucks or attempt to hijack them, but that will CERTAINLY happen in this case.) Where does the food and water come from? How does it get to where it is needed? Who and how does it even get loaded on trucks? Who decides priorities for distribution? Who provides security for the drivers? Where does the fuel and spare parts come from? WHO PAYS FOR IT ALL?)

The army, National Guard, Red Cross, etc all have jobs currently. They all take a relatively long time to get going in a disaster. Their resources aren't unlimited, and are mainly geared toward "filling the gap." And all the doctrine is about help from outside the affected area.

Anyway, to address the infrastructure failures. Electricity, needed for almost everything else, needs a constant flow of fuel and parts to the generating stations. If movements are restricted, or people are afraid to travel and congregate, that supply is jeopardized. Locally, infrastructure is often attacked when civil order breaks down. Or it is destroyed by the fires. There are ALWAYS fires.

Water. There was a state that recently was going to drain an entire drinking water reservoir because of a video of someone PEEING in it. We're talking about a whole lake! What would happen if an ebola victim was found floating in it? Or an ebola outbreak affected workers there? Or if it was REPORTED that the water wasn't safe to drink? Also, if the power is out, the water won't last long. I saw people fighting over bottled water WHILE FRESH WATER WAS STILL COMING OUT OF THE TAPS! People in crowds are not rational. Scared people are not rational.

So, fires burning. Shelves are bare. People are sitting in dark, hot apartments with no light or entertainment. They are afraid and angry. The hungry toddler hasn't stopped crying for 8 hours. People get out of their houses and start roaming the streets. Fun time starts.

YOU DON'T WANT TO GO OUT WHEN IT GETS LIKE THIS. Really really do not want to be out in this. Think Reginald Denny. Think of the guy on the parkway in NY. Think of my roommate, jumped and beaten, slashed with a bottle because his skin color made him a convenient target. There is always a lot of "payback" and grudge settling during these breakdowns in order too.

Anonymous said...

begin part two-

So, to cut this wall-o-text short :-)

No one is coming to help you. At least not after the real fun starts, and not for some time. You DO NOT want to go out into the mess if you can avoid it. You NEVER know what sort of local trouble you are walking into. Prep to be self sufficient for as long as you can, given the likely threats in your area.

3 days--localized weather disaster, mild earthquake, help is coming from surrounding areas.

2 weeks--regional weather disaster, big quake, hurricane, severe flooding, wild fires. Help will need to come from a distance, and will need lots of co-ordinating.

3 months--LOSS OF JOB, SUDDEN SICKNESS, other PERSONAL disaster, stock market collapse, large economic events, disease outbreak, national disaster. Effects are widespread, help is local only and very limited. (Or in the case of a personal disaster, no one but you and your close acquaintances even care.)

You can start small and build from there. Some good links are posted up thread. Use this time wisely. Use the wakeup call...


Anonymous said...

On the other hand, also based on personal experience.

Some people have a disaster bring out the best in them.

New Yorkers and the nation pulled together after 911.

Earthquakes bring neighbors out to share and bbq the food that would otherwise spoil.

Hurricanes can bring whole neighborhoods together for cleanup, resource sharing, and to establish security.

There are massive outpourings of charity and aid following major disasters.

BUT the threat of ebola, horrible death from something you can't even see, carried to you and your family by other people, will probably have the opposite effect. I'm thinking isolation, fragmentation, and retaliation.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'm taking notes and trying to figure out the next step on a very tight budget :-P

As for things collapsing - the electrical grid is a lot more fragile than most people realize. One of the main lines stops sending on power and if the only ones who can fix it are ill/dead/quarantined......

It's kinda like the highway - one person screws up/has a bad day and viola! all traffic stopped for miles.